Earlier today, CNN broke news that a Coast Guard ship had opened fire on another boat in the Potomac area, expending ten rounds, as Washington DC spent the day commemorating the 9/11 attacks. Later, it turned out that no shots had been fired at all. CNN reacted to radio traffic of a Coast Guard drill and ran with the story without confirming it. Now, Jeanne Meserve says people will demand answers, presumably from the government — but perhaps viewers would like some answers from CNN instead:
Politico notes the White House’s fully-justified retort:
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs today criticized CNN – not the Coast Guard – over the panic caused by the agency’s training exercise on the 9/11 anniversary, saying that the alarm could have been avoided if the network had checked its facts.
Gibbs said he wouldn’t second-guess Coast Guard leadership for holding a Potomac River exercise on the morning of the 9/11 commemoration. But he took a shot at CNN, which initially didn’t know the maneuvers in the Potomac were part of an exercise and erroneously reported that gunshots were fired – something the homeland security department said didn’t occur.
“Let’s understand that best I can tell there was reporting based on listening to a police scanner that was not verified, and then it was on television and now we’ve raced back to find out that it’s a training exercise. So I think it appears as if a lot of this might have been avoided,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs told reporters that the Coast Guard was holding a news conference to explain the exercise. “Hopefully CNN will go,” Gibbs quipped. “My only caution would be that before we report things like this, checking would be good.”
The CNN reporter in the briefing room tried to push for the White House and the Coast Guard to explain holding exercises on 9/11, but Gibbs wasn’t biting:
The incident also set off a terse exchange between Gibbs and CNN reporter Elaine Quijano over the incident as Gibbs briefed reporters. Quijano asked whether the public should have been informed about a training exercise on the 9/11 anniversary.
“If we set aside the media coverage, would you be asking this question?” Gibbs said.
Mark your calendars for this one, because I agree completely with Robert Gibbs on this. The “panic” over the exercise originated entirely at CNN, due to their rush to go live with a story before properly verifying it. They have a reporter at the White House and people at the Pentagon. Why not ask first whether the Coast Guard had an exercise? Are they that desperate for a scoop?
The military of the US is on constant duty, and the best way to ensure that they operate at their best capacity is constant training. Today, while significant for our nation, is just another day to prepare for our defense to the Coast Guard and the other branches of the service. No one would have “panicked” over this exercise or even known of its existence had CNN not freaked out over a radio communication.
This is the day we’re supposed to honor our fighting men and women for their dedication and service in defending the nation, not quibble about normal exercises.